From a Culture of Borders to Borders of Cultures: Nationalism and the “Clash of Civilizations” in International Relations Theory

Joseph N. Bayeh, Georgios C. Baltos


The Peace of Westphalia signed in 1648 signaled the beginning of the modern international system of states. International relations (IR) theory identifies this treaty as the founder of the principle of political sovereignty whereby each nation-state has full control over its territory and domestic affairs, thus it is the beginning of an international system of states. The latter is based on the sanctity and inviolability of interstate borders as its main defining feature. This paper investigates the recent developments in international relations and their significance to the concept of borders in IR theory; on the one hand, a “clash of civilizations” thesis assumes that new “fault lines” borders among civilizations of, mainly, different religions are taking precedence over traditional territorial borders of nation-states, while, on the other hand, a rise in conservative nationalism and, possibly, protectionism, over the traditionally liberal West reasserts the primacy of territorial borders in IR. In particular, this study examines whether such developments signal a paradigm shift in IR theory that may necessitate revisiting certain fundamentals of mainstream respective theories.

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Journal of Educational and Social Research ISSN 2239-978X(Print) ISSN 2240-0524(Online)

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